I wake up in the morning, trembling in my body, and aching in my mind, remembering my dreams. The quiet sweetness of them. The scents of home, of family, the faces of friends and loved ones, ripped away by the sudden opening of my eyes into this … different world.
I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed and sit there for a while, eyes closed, because I need a moment of not thinking to prepare myself for the day.
The Universe is such a sneaky bastard.
I was raised on stories of Heaven and Hell. I was told that you lived your life, did your best, then died, and went on to whichever of the Big Two you earned by your actions and your words.
But this … this wasn’t supposed to happen. No one even hinted that I might, instead, wake up in some parallel world where I never died, and everything is just a wee bit different. My head now holds a new set of memories, which helps to explain this slightly different life I now live, and the friends who are … close, but no cigar.
I suspect… Hell, I am pretty damn sure that it wasn’t supposed to work that way. I don’t think that I am supposed to know.
That’s the kicker because I remember. God Help me, but I do. And at night, I dream of my old life. Watching like a ghost over those I still love who are trying to go on without me, and wake to strangers who know me so well.
And it’s driving me mad. I wish that there was someone I could call and complain to. “Dear Universe, We have a problem here that needs fixing. Can you send over a man?”
I open my eyes. It’s not an unpleasant room. Though I miss my wife. In this world, I never married her. I looked her up on the net, and she’s married with children somewhere in Chicago. I tell myself that I want to be happy for her, but I feel so cheated. And then I feel guilty because that Helen is NOT my Helen. MY Helen is grieving my death in our house in California. I never gave her any children. So like me, she is now all alone.
It hurts so much that sometimes I wish the Universe had gotten it right. That I had woken up here, mind filled with only this life and gone on, never knowing.
Then I think of my Helen. My sweet Helen grieving so badly, and so alone. In my dreams, I go back to that world. I ghost around her, following her through her days, wishing that I could help. And sometimes, when her friends have left for the day, and she is alone, she talks to me. And oh, how I wish that I could touch her. But at least, maybe, she senses that I can hear. And maybe that helps, if only a little. My poor Helen. How could I want to forget you?
I make myself stand up and go to the bath to shave and shower. I have friends here, I know only from these … new memories in my mind. Marty will pick me up in a half hour, and we will drive to work. He is not unpleasant.
Damn those two words. “Not Unpleasant.” They describe this whole world.
Nothing sparkles. I read once that every action creates a world where that action didn’t happen. Did this world exist before I died? If it didn’t, then I must ask, is it truly real? Or is this just a dream? Is it, perhaps, only my time in purgatory? If I killed myself here, where would I go? To Heaven? Hell? Or another one of these not quite right worlds?
I take several deep breaths, looking into the mirror. Then I finish dressing and go out to the curb to wait for Marty’s car. I see it as it comes around the corner and note that Marty seems to have slumped against the door. It comes roaring in my direction. I never have a chance to get out of the way.
My last thought is, “Maybe this time, I won’t remember.”
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